Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Is Atlas Shrugging?

Today is a fog day. That means that school buses were delayed by two hours this morning, to ensure the safety of the children. On fog days, I usually drive my son to school so that even though students riding the buses arrive two hours late, he arrives at the regular time. Since most of his buddies in grade seven are also dropped off by their parents, the boys can use the time before the others arrive to play together.

There is also a selfish motive for me to act as chauffeur on fog days. The fifteen minute drive from where we live to my son's school gives us the opportunity to chat. Today, I spoke to him about Ayn Rand.

2005 is the 'Year of Ayn Rand.' She was born on February 2, 1905 in St. Petersburg, Russia. She emigrated to the United States in February of 1926, at the age of twenty-one. She became one of America's most famous authors and founded a philosophy she called Objectivism.

My son knows what I think about big government, about the importance of individual liberty and personal responsibility. Since each of us arrives at our ultimate worldview and personal philosophy by sometimes tortuous paths, I thought I would help him understand how I came to be the Daddy he knows me to be today. Ayn Rand played a major role.

In 1962 or 1963, I sat in a classroom at the St. Catharines Collegiate Institute and Vocational School, in St. Catharines, Ontario. We had a spare period, and I was bored. I looked over at a girl sitting in the row beside me. She was ornamental in the typically early sixties fashion -- lacquered and perfectly coifed hair, tight blouse and tighter skirt. To provide cover for my ogling, I asked her about the novel she was reading. The book was Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand.

Several days later, I started to read the book myself.

I read Atlas Shrugged, all of nearly 1,000 pages, virtually non-stop. I have always been an avid reader. Since I was about twelve years old, I had been reading Camus, Sartre, Dos Passos and others who described a world wherein humans were moulded and buffeted by happenstance, where everyone was always a victim and everything bad that happened was always someone else's fault. Now, all of a sudden I was reading a novel about characters who shaped the world, not vice versa. Rand's protagonists were larger than life. They didn't complain, whine, point fingers. Instead they simply did. I liked them.

I liked Rand too. I proceeded to read everything by Rand I could find: Anthem, We The Living, The Fountainhead, The Night of January 16th, The Virtue of Selfishness, Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal, and more.

I still felt alone in the world. By 1967, I had moved to London, Ontario to attend The University of Western Ontario. Even then, socialism was alive and well in academia, and I didn't meet anyone with whom I really felt comfortable discussing laissez-faire capitalism, individual rights, personal responsibility and all those things that we today think of as 'libertarian.'

In 1972, I happened to meet up with an old friend who had moved to California. We discussed Rand, and he told me about an organization in the United States called The Society For Individual Liberty. When he returned to California he sent me some brochures.

From The Society For Individual Liberty, I learned about the nascent Libertarian Party and in 1973 I traveled to Cleveland for the annual convention held there by the party. It was there that I first saw a book by Robert A. Heinlein. It was also there that I met Bruce Evoy and several other Canadians. With Bruce as our driving force we founded the Libertarian Party of Canada, on July 7, 1974, Robert A. Heinlein's birthday. I eventually became the first elected leader of the party, but that's another story.

The Society For Individual Liberty became The International Society for Individual Liberty in 1989 and is chaired by Vince Miller, a former Londoner. ISIL is now headquartered in California.

Ayn Rand's books are still in print. I don't agree with everything Rand ever wrote., but I think that every thinking human should read her books. If you at all fear that the world is going to hell in a hand-basket and if you, unlike most sheeple don't think that greedy capitalists are behind the mess, you need to read Atlas Shrugged.

When you have read the book, ask yourself: Is Atlas Shrugging?

For anyone interested, I wrote a piece elsewhere called Libertarianism and another called Political Philosophooey.


  1. This is one of the finest blogs you have written. Why don't you create a discussion group where thinkers can exchange ideas, and a free flow of serious consideration of today's turmoils would be the objective? Living in a world where even in small communities, folks are fearfull of going away from their homes because they may be mugged and hurt for the loose change in their pockets. The crashing of the Trade Centre, and the desperate running of the victims, will always be on the verge of making me weep. Whatever has happened to peace in the world, goodwill towards men. Don't you just despise how all the cards are in the terrorist's hands. He knows when and where to make his move and all we can hope is it will not involve us. Too bad Ayn Rand is no longer here to see our dilemma.

  2. Thanks for your comments and suggestions. There are numerous such forums already on the internet. Many libertarian groups and individuals can be found by simply typing 'libertarian' into any search engine. I, unfortunately, have an attention span of only sixteen nanoseconds (on a good day) and would therefore be ill-suited to hosting any sort of ongoing discussion group.